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MENAFN - Arab News - 24/12/2013
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(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Arabia's budget revenue for 2013 was projected to cross SR1.13 trillion and expenditure to amount SR925 billion registering a surplus of SR206 billion, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf stated on Monday.
"The increase of actual over budgeted expenditures of around SR105 billion was due to additional expenditures on projects in the Two Holy Mosques and other development and service projects, especially transportation, housing, and education," he said.
Preliminary estimates indicate that the public debt will decline from around SR98.8 billion (26.3 billion) at the end of 2012 to around SR75.1 billion (20 billion) at the end of 2013, representing less than 2.7 percent of projected GDP for 2013.
The number of government projects signed with the private sector in 2013 amounted to 2,330 with a total value of around SR157 billion.
Said Al-Shaikh, group chief economist at the National Commercial Bank, said: "The government is continuing with same sort of approach in conducting expansionary fiscal policies for 2014. Year over year, the government's actual expenditure is surpassing the projected expenditure which may present the challenge for the sustainability of fiscal policy moving forward."
"Money allocated for education represents 25 percent of total appropriations in 2014 with an increase of three percent compared to last year," the ministry said.
John Sfakianakis, chief investment strategist at Masic in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News: "The 2014 budget shows a solid commitment to enhancing the country's education, healthcare and infrastructure growth whilst incentivizing the private sector to sustainable growth and development."
He said the macro indicators are robust given the surplus and one of the world's lowest government to GDP debt ratios in the world. This provides ample fiscal support and prudent macro planning for years to come. GDP projections for 2013 are good but there a positive upside surprise to the 2012 headline GDP figure from 5.1 percent to 5.8 percent. Inflation is at moderate levels given that it should average around 3.6 percent and deflationary pressures prevail globally.
"E-government is of particular interest to this year's announced budget as well as science and technology which is an important driver for growth," Sfakianakis said.
Basil Al-Ghalayini, CEO of BMG Financial Group, said: "A game changer for the Saudi's GDP is how soon the activation of the renewable energy plans will take place. This will eventually have an impact on the future reliance on oil for local consumption which ultimately its savings will affect the budget's bottom line."
On another front, Al-Ghalayini said it is still to be seen the impact of the illegal labor's crackdown and their outbound transfers of billions of riyals on the national economy.
The new budget has made allocations for 465 new school buildings (SR3 billion) in addition to 1,544 school buildings currently under construction and 494 schools that have been completed in 2013. The budget includes appropriations to increase the number of classrooms and renovation of around 1,500 existing school buildings.
For higher education, the new budget includes appropriations for rehabilitation of girls colleges in several universities, opening of eight new colleges, and completing the construction of campuses for the new universities, including housing of faculty members.
With regard to the scholarship program, the total number of students studying abroad reached over 185,000 students including their dependents who are also supported by the government. Total expenditures on them amounted to more than SR22 billion (5.9 billion).
The new budget includes several new projects that include building new vocational and technical colleges and institutes at a cost of SR5.2 billion and appropriations for existing projects amounted to SR500 million.
"There is eight percent increase in health sector allocations," said the ministry. The budget includes new projects for new primary healthcare centers throughout the Kingdom, 11 new hospitals, two medical complexes, 11 medical centers, and 10 comprehensive clinics.
There are more than 132 hospitals under construction with a capacity of 33,750 beds and five medical cities around the Kingdom with a capacity of 6,200 beds. In 2013, 16 new hospitals were completed with a capacity of more than 3,700 beds.
For social services, the budget includes appropriations to build sport clubs in 20 towns, 16 social centers, social welfare and labor offices. In addition, the budget includes additional support for social welfare, special-need citizens, and poverty eradication programs.

Municipality services:
Total expenditure amounts to around SR39 billion, an increase of nine percent over 2013 budget. It includes new projects for inter-city roads, bridges, and drainage and control systems. It also includes other environment-related projects as well as appropriations for studies and design of public transport projects in Makkah and Riyadh.

Infrastructure and transportation:
Total expenditure amounts to SR 66.6 billion, an increase of 2.5 percent over 2013. It includes new projects amounting to SR40.2 billion for roads totaling 3,500 km, upgrading and modernizing existing ports and building additional berths, additional infrastructure projects in the industrial cities of Jubail, Yanbu and Ras Al-Khair, expanding and upgrading regional and international airports, and railroads.

Water, agriculture, industry, and other economic resources:
Total expenditure amounts to around SR61 billion, an increase of 5.7 percent over 2013. It includes new projects amounting to around SR33 billion for increasing water resources through building dams, desalination, utilizing deep aquifers wells, and expanding and improving water and water treatment networks.
In addition to existing projects, several other projects will be implemented to create the infrastructure for the industrial cities and to deliver required services to them. New projects have been planned to build new grain silos and expanding existing ones.

Government financing programs:
Specialized credit institutions (Real Estate Development Fund, Saudi Industrial Development Fund, Saudi Credit and Saving Bank, Agriculture Development Fund, Public Investment Fund, and Government Lending Program) will continue to provide loans that aim to support job creation and increase growth prospects.
It is estimated that around SR85.3 billion will be disbursed in 2014 by these institutions. The total value of loans provided by these institutions since their inception amounts to about SR537.5 billion.


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